Which Side Has the Stronger Case?

Monday, August 17, 2009


Talent evaluators generally agree Strasburg is the best pitching prospect to come through the draft at least since Mark Prior in 2001, and perhaps in history.

Strasburg can sit out a year and pitch in an independent league (or Japan), then re-enter the draft in 2010. He can also deny the Nationals the right to re-draft him if they have No. 1 pick again.

If the San Diego Padres have the worst or second-worst record in 2009 (they currently have the fifth-worst), Strasburg conceivably could be picked by his hometown team in 2010.

Nationals' 100-loss pace and failure to sign last year's first-round pick (pitcher Aaron Crow) have increased pressure on the team from fans and media to sign Strasburg.

Boras is said to have at least investigated the feasibility of using Japan's professional leagues as a means of gaining free agency with MLB.

If Strasburg sits out a year, he can still insure himself against catastrophic arm injury; Boras can also take the unusual step of guaranteeing the client a certain amount of money if he sits out and the strategy backfires.

The recent elbow surgery of rookie RHP Jordan Zimmermann creates a greater need for a solid starting pitcher atop the Nationals' rotation.


The team owns exclusive negotiating rights to the player; he either signs with the Nationals or he cannot play for a major league or affiliated minor league team until after next year's draft.

If the team fails to sign the player, it gets a compensatory pick the following year. In the case of the Nationals, who currently have the worst record in baseball, this could result in an unprecedented bounty of having the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in 2010.

By sitting out a year, Strasburg risks injuring his arm and damaging his marketability in 2010.

The history of pitchers taken with high draft picks (no 200-game winners among those taken within the first 18 overall picks) suggests there is a good chance Strasburg will never fulfill expectations, which increases the risk for the team.

No player in the history of the draft has received more guaranteed money than the $10.5 million given to Prior by the Chicago Cubs in 2001, and the other MLB teams are counting on the Nationals not to set a radical new precedent.

The recent elbow surgery of Zimmermann is further proof that young pitchers frequently get injured.

-- Dave Sheinin

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